Constantly training, teaching others what you know and always being prepared are the hallmarks of great firefighters

Habits are an interesting and an integral part of who we are. And there’s been a great deal of research into how and why habits function the way they do.

In his 2012 book, “The Power of Habit,” Charles Duhigg writes that in the past decade science has learned more about habits than we ever could have dreamed of 50 years ago. They aren’t simple to build, break and change, but it can be done and we now know how, Duhigg writes.

1. The habit of training
My personal mantra is that every day is training day. Every day we have the opportunity and the responsibility to fulfill our ability and calling to be the best firefighter and leader we can be.

Every day we have a choice to do something that will take our skills and career to the next level. Every day we can build upon our foundation to be ready when the moment comes when we are called upon.

Every day we get to live out this awesome calling of being a firefighter. There are never two identical fires and there are no two days that are identical. There are patterns and similarities, but we never know exactly what can happen at any given moment.

So great firefighters have the habit of taking every opportunity to train. Training includes practicing skills on the training ground and around the firehouse. It also includes reading articles, listening to podcasts, taking classes, reading fire service and leadership books, reviewing case studies of close calls and LODDs, taking care of our bodies and more.

Firefighters need so many skills that we cannot waste any moments we have to train, otherwise we will limit our potential. So make every moment count. Train like your life depends on it, because it does. Train often like your big one is coming next week, because it just may.

2. The habit of teaching 
We’ve all heard that all-too-familiar expression, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” This maybe true for some, but great firefighters and leaders know the truth. Those who can, do and teach those that can’t, so that those that can’t, can.

True mastery of a subject comes from doing and teaching. That’s because doing something with near flawless expertise takes a deep level of understanding. But passing that skill on to others takes an even deeper level of understanding, which is mastery.

There are so many challenges to transferring knowledge, skills and abilities to others. Among them, students will challenge you with questions and scenarios that you have not foreseen.

This in turn will challenge you to go deeper into the subject and solve these challenges. And that, of course, is how you master the subject. That mastery will be the return on your investment of doing and teaching.

Great firefighters know this and therefore are always looking to teach and train others.

3. The habit of being prepared
This is common sense because the fire service makes its living on being prepared. We train and prepare for scenarios that others don’t. That is why they call us: to help them out of a problem they are unprepared to resolve.

We have prepared with the right equipment, personnel and training. We have contingency plans with contingency plans. We have mutual-aid agreements and access to additional resources so we are prepared for whatever happens.

With all this indoctrinated in us, how can someone not be prepared? How can a firefighter be late? How can a firefighter not have a change of clothes?

There are times that we don’t carry our skills and training into our personal lives. Great firefighters and leaders use those same skills in their personal life so that they are always prepared for whatever is thrown at them.

I have multiple ways for making sure I am up and early to work. I have multiple sitters on call for taking care of my children, multiple bags of clothes and a little stash of money just in case.

In fact, my wife told me that it’s a little ridiculous to have an emergency fund for my emergency fund for my emergency fund. Yes, that’s three emergency funds. But, I told her, we never know. We could get hit with a three banger and I want to be prepared.

Great firefighters have the habit of being preparedYes, it is a habit. It is a choice that we make and then continue doing it to make it a habit in all areas of our life. This includes being prepared for work as well as our finances. It includes our family arrangements, our cars and our health.

Which of these three habits do you do? Which one if any are you going to implement in the next 30 days?

Schedule it in your calendar for recurring and you will find yourself doing what great firefighters do. Remember, reading an article doesn’t make us better. Implementing it makes us better. Go for it.

As with all other aspects of human life, habits dictate what type of firefighters we are. Here’s a look at three habits great firefighters share and those who want to be great aspire to develop.

David J. Soler is the founder and publisher of Firefighter Toolbox and the host of iTunes top-rated firefighter training podcast called Firefighter Toolbox Podcast. With over 20 years in the fire service, he is a nationally certified fire instructor III, fire officer II, rescue technician and hazmat technician with experience in both urban and rural fire services. As a captain, he has taken low-responding, low-motivated fire companies and turned them into highly motivated, top-responding fire companies. He holds a bachelor’s in management and technology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His book “Firefighter Preplan” can be ordered here. He can be reached at